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Recent Cases from the Civil Litigation Division

These are among cases handled in recent months by the Office of the Attorney General’s Civil Litigation Division:

VISTA CONTRACTING, INC., ET AL VS. GLENN R. SMITH, ET AL, 2012 CA 005188

On January 7, 2014, Superior Court Associate Judge Natalia M. Combs Greene granted summary judgment in favor of defendant Jay Dolphin, a District contracting official who was personally sued by  Vista Contracting, Inc. and its owner Stjepan Sostaric. The plaintiffs sought $10 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages.  The District had awarded  Vista a contract for the construction and renovation of the Ward Six Senior Wellness Center.  Vista was ultimately terminated for default when the District’s contracting officer determined that it had failed to repair adequately a number of deficiencies on the project.  Vista and its president sued Mr. Dolphin for tortious interference with contract, claiming that Dolphin intentionally acted to prevent Vista’s performance on its contract with the District so as to cause Vista’s termination of default.  Judge Combs Greene granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant on plaintiff Sostaric’s claim for tortious interference  on the basis that no contract existed between plaintiff Sostaric and the District.  As for Vista’s claim against Dolphin, the Court found that Vista produced no evidence that defendant Dolphin interfered with Vista’s contract with the District. The Court found that Vista failed to produce evidence to dispute the fact that Vista’s termination was due to “uncured deficiencies and unsatisfactory performance.” Vista attempted to appeal the termination for default before the Contract Appeals Board.  That case was dismissed last summer on motion by the District.  Assistant Attorney General Carlos Sandoval handled both matters.

CHERYL BERKLEY V. D.C., ET AL,  2010 CA 004739 B

On November 21, 2013, General Litigation Section II won a defense verdict in a gender discrimination case. Plaintiff’s job as a work order specialist at the Department of General Services was eliminated as part of a reduction-in-force in February of 2009.  Plaintiff claimed that a new supervisor who started in late 2008 created a hostile work environment and that she was targeted for termination because of her gender and because she complained about the new supervisor’s harassment.  The new supervisor was an individual defendant in plaintiff’s gender discrimination claims under the DCHRA.  After fewer than three hours of deliberation, a jury found that plaintiff had not established that she was subject to a hostile work environment, retaliation, or that she had complained about gender discrimination.  The jury also found that gender was not a motivating factor in the elimination of her position as part of the reduction-in-force.  AAGs Sarah Knapp and Portia Roundtree tried the case before Superior Court Judge John M. Mott.

BROOKENS, ET AL. V. USA, ET AL, 12-cv-00502

Chief Judge Roberts of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss.  The plaintiffs, Benoit Brookens and Mary Todd, sued the District and other defendants after Brookens was arrested and charged with 19 counts of criminal contempt for violating a 1986 D.C. Court of Appeals order prohibiting him from practicing law in the District. The order was issued after he appeared improperly in various landlord-tenant matters.  Brookens was a member of the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin bars, but had not been admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia.  Todd was also detained for allegedly associating with Brookens.  Brookens’ violations first came to the attention of the Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law in 2011 or 2012, when Administrative Law Judge Jennifer Long filed a complaint after Brookens attempted to appear before her in another landlord-tenant dispute.  Federal marshals and the Metropolitan Police Department arrested Brookens at his residence.  Ultimately, Brookens was found guilty. Plaintiffs sued the defendants under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 for violating their First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights, and for malicious prosecution, assault/battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and negligence. The Court ruled on Oct. 7, 2013 that the complaint failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted against the District of Columbia. Former AAG Michael Lanzdorf and AAG Rick Ferrini prepared the briefing.